Jolivet, André

In the hope of forgetting the horrors of the First World War, Jolivet's generation drowned itself in futility and pleasure-making: the artist was then merely assigned a social function. Though born in 1905, André Jolivet proudly fought against this image. It would require more than a few pages to quote all Jolivet has said and written about the fundaments of his art. The expressions that appear most frequently speak of: “a force emanating from the deepest part of the being, a medium with which to express the psyche”, “a music born out of a dread for silence” or “a flute that fills the notes with that part of us that is at the same time visceral and cosmic”. But let us make no mistake. Although this highly spiritual aspect precedes all musical gestures in Jolivet's mind, his creativity is not tied down to this ardently spiritual attitude. He captures (listens to) matter, then gives it a musical shape before letting it return to its source. Thus, through a purely magical operation, music becomes the beaker of universal memory, far removed from human beings' recollections, so prone to becoming paralysingly nostalgic.

Primus inter pares, the rhythmic language, so rich in irrational note values, developes within that immanent and thriving life to which it naturally belongs. Lyricism and a tense melodic flux are the ultimate expression of a battle against the unfathomable. The harmonic language is organised around pivot notes and evolves between atonal and modal languages, thus becoming an architectural element. The dynamics which superimpose these three elements determine the nervous poetic space into which Jolivet wished to draw his auditors.

In search of archetypical musical forms, Jolivet sometimes approaches neoclassicism. And yet he can be considered as one of the essential links (along with Varèse, his only “master”, and Milhaud) between Debussy's music and serialism.


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